Stillers 9, Ravens 6 ��. Oct. 29, 2000 Game #8
Stillers-Ravens Post Game Analysis & Grades:
Combining equal parts of grit and fortuitous luck, the Stillers held on to what was basically a baseball-like score, 9-6, in a key win over division rival Baltimore. The Stiller offense could muster only a 45-yard TD strike to Ward, and a FG drive that began on the Raven 27-yard line. The defense came up big after a slow start, shutting out Baltimore in the 2nd half.
1. Jamal Lewis rumbles for 32 yards on the first Balt. series.
2. On 3rd & 2 at the Stiller 10 on that 1st series, Dilfer fumbles the snap and Lee Flowers out-wrestles Dilfer for the Stiller recovery.
3. On a harmless dump pass in the flats, a wide-open J. Lewis dashes for a 41-yard gain.
4. Hines Ward goes up for the underthrown bomb pass, and hauls it in for a 45-yard TD.
5. Kris Brown then misses the extra point, keeping the score tied and the game up for grabs until the final Dilfer incompletion.
6. On the ensuing KO, Simmons and Fiala put the stick on Harris, who coughs up the ball to the Stillers at the Balt. 27.
7. DeWayne snares a spectacular INT on a deep bomb to Ismail, snuffing a Baltimore threat that had reached the Stiller 42-yard line.
QB: The Western Union Man had another typically spotty, low-output performance, throwing 9-18 for 133 yards, 45 of which was consumed on the Ward TD reception. Stewart ran 9 times for 31 yards. At times, Stewart looked hesitant and unsure in the pocket, all too often waiting too long to scoot from pressure and then taking the sack. Stewart actually threw once while on the run, but otherwise never once even looked to throw when he ran from the pocket, instead grabbing the ball like an old-fashioned fullback and peering no more than about four yards ahead. Stew nearly had a pass picked off near the end of the half, on a poor, fluttery, much-too-feathery out-pass to Burress that was dropped by Starks. Even the TD pass was nothing to be proud of. Ward had his man beaten by 3 steps, but Stewart's lollipop toss was underthrown, and only a sterling leap-and-snare by Ward allowed the TD to occur. C.
RB: Bettis found occasional creases in the stingy Raven defense, and plowed for 65 yards on 18 carries. I was pleased with his strong block of a Raven LB on the 13-yard QB draw, though Bettis nearly jerked it up by slightly grabbing the LB's hand after Stew had already blown by, and then Bettis drew attention to himself by putting his arms in the air in an act of contrition than often draws the flag. Hunt chipped in with 7 carries for 24 yards, mostly on the SG Draw, which seemed to be called on every other down. Hunt drew my ire in the 2nd quarter, on a 3rd and 2 counter up left guard from the Raven 32-yard line. Huntley saw that the hole was filled, so he bounced it wide. Problem was, he got engulfed, and rather than diving ahead for 1, he lost 2. This caused the team to have to punt, rather than attempting a 48-yard FG. Hunt also committed a foolhardy hold on a WR Screen, which killed one drive. B+.
FB: Despite dire predictions that said the Stiller running game would come to a complete halt with the loss of Witman and Fu, rookie Dan Kreider acquitted himself very well in his first-ever NFL reg. season game, blocking with good force & follow-through. Bettis' 14-yard scamper was directly keyed by Kreider's thumping block of LB Jamie Sharper, and Bettis' 11-yard gainer late in the 4th quarter was enabled by a bruising Kreider block on all-world LB Ray Lewis. Kreider even chipped in a nifty 14-yard reception, in which he caught a short dumpoff near the sideline, and then proceeded to juke by two Raven defenders and then bulling brutally into a third man. Kreider's strong outing should effectively put an end to any more nonsensical poppycock of "Without Jon Witman, the Stillers will have trouble running the ball�". A+.
WR: Ward led the way with the clutch TD grab on the bomb, plus another 10-yard catch. Shaw continued his long string of clutch 3rd down performances, grabbing a short out on 3rd and 11 and juking past 2 tacklers en route to a 25-yard gain. Burress was fairly quiet, catching 2 shorty passes. On the team's first drive, he was thrown a deep crosser, and it was hard to tell (with no CBS replay) if the pass was dropped. I wasn't very pleased with his reception on the final play of the 3rd quarter, on a 2d & 10 slant. Plex caught the ball about 8 yards downfield, and then dropped to the ground as though he'd been hit with gunfire. Rather than gaining 10 or 11 yards, Plex's softee fall netted only 9, and on the next play a 3rd & 1 running play was stuffed, thus forcing a punt. There appeared to be no reason whatsoever for Burress to fall to the ground so timidly. I guess I should have been pleased that he didn't hop up and spike the ball. Malcolm was thrown a slant on a key 3rd & 2-1/2 play in the 3rd period, but Starks reached around & batted the ball away. I was disappointed in this effort, as Johnson never came back to the ball on a play that clearly demanded he do so. Troy was a late scratch. Ward and Shaw: A. Others: C+.
TE: Breuner made a nice snag for an 11-yard gain. His blocking was adequate. Tuman, the long-forgotten "pass receiving TE", was thrown a seam route, but the pass was a poorly overthrown line-drive. B.
OL: The line had a few sporadic fits of stupidity from some individuals but collectively played decently. Facing a rugged, strong Raven run-defense, the OL opened up some nice creases and got some good push once in a while. The Ravens got 5 sacks, but 3 or 4 of these were the result of Stewart being given ample time, but then piddling around excessively and then taking the sack. Tylski was exposed more than once with shoddy blocking. Tharpe proved too slow on counters that required him to move laterally to make a block against the ultra-quick Raven defense. On the one Lewis sack, guard Alan Faneca simply stood around with just about his entire thumb up his anal crevice, doing nothing but yelling back to Stewart, "Whoops, watch out!!" It took trainer John Norwig over 7 minutes on the sidelines to extract Faneca's thumb after this jackassed stand-around. Wayne Candy, bad shoulder and all, gritted it out with a solid effort. Collectively, this unit played acceptably. B.
DL: The DL had a host of strong plays, but unfortunately also a few plays that were abysmal. Aaron Smith created a lot of penetration and disruption, but, with his hands seemingly coated with bacon grease, allowed ballcarrier after ballcarrier to elude his grasp and scoot away for nice chunks of yardage. In the 1st quarter alone, Smith missed 3 gimmes in the Raven backfield. Smith also over-played a Lewis run, which resulted in a large hole and a 14-yard gain midway thru the 4th. To his credit, Smitty did deflect a 3d & 2 swing pass, and he chased Dilfer OOB for no gain on a key 4th quarter, 3rd down scramble that forced a punt. Kevin had 2 solos and deflected a pass at the LOS. Kimo had some good penetration and also had some harassment of the QB. Take away the 14 and 32 yard gainers, and Jamal Lewis had a pretty mediocre day. B+.
LB: After Mark May's imbecilic babbling of "I played against Greg Lloyd, and Joey Porter is no Lloyd," Joey Porter then went on to imitate Greg Lloyd with a reproduction that the Xerox Corporation would have been pleased with. Porter had severak good pressures and 2 sacks, including one in which he lined up near the NT, and then swooped around the RT to corral Dilfer. This was the kind of play that can only be made by a defender with electric quickness and speed. Porter had 5 solos and 3 assists, in what was most likely his best run-support effort of the year. Earl Holmes had 5 solos and 1 assist, and Kirk added 3 & 3. Holmes also broke up a short slant pass to Quadry. Gildon was mostly as quiet as a nunnery, contributing only infrequent pass pressure and doing little in stuffing the run. Gildon had a chance to make a stop on the 19-yard Dilfer scramble, in which he had both mitts on Dilfer for a no-gain play, but Dilfer nonchalantly used a stiff-arm and drove Gildon into the grass like a golf tee, and then rumbled away for the long gainer. Gildon did have decent coverage on the widest receiver on the final Raven pass play late in the 4th quarter. Porter, Holmes, & Kirk: A. All others: C-.
DB: After getting abused by Quadry the past couple of meetings, the secondary stepped it up and limited Quadry to 41 yards on 3 grabs. DeWayne had yet another strong performance, making the superb INT on one bomb and providing top-flight coverage on two others. Chad was a wee bit soft and generous with his cushions given to rookie Taylor, but played ok and also had 6 solos. Flowers had an off-and-on game. He whiffed miserably on the 41-yard Lewis catch-and-run, and he had a couple other weakish tackles that should provide some embarrassment during the team film review. Lee did out-muscle Dilfer for the key fumble recovery, which saved what surely would have been 3 points. Lee also did a heroic job to vault high in the air over a blocker during his blitz on the Ravens' last-gasp 4th down pass play, which unnerved Dilfer and caused an errant pass. Brent Alexander had yet another strong performance, leading the team with 7 solos and providing some solid coverage. A-.
Spec Teams: Aside from the forced fumble by Simmons & Fiala on the one KO, the special teams pretty much sucked egg the entire day. Josh's punting was as pitiful as I've ever seen it. He continually shanked balls off the side of his foot, and on one pooch punt boomed it into the EZ. Kris Brown, on a pleasant, bone-dry day, inexplicably missed a super-important PAT. Even Simmons, on the only decent pooch punt all day by Josh, blundered by foolishly getting too close to the ball, and his allowing the ball to skim him gave the Ravens the ball at their 10, rather than at the 1. Hank Poteat was replaced as the punt returner 2 or 3 times by Little Runt Courtney, and the return game did jack. D-.
Off Coord: While Gilbride wouldn't recognize a game plan if it hit him upside the head, he does deserve credit for implementing 2 brand-new formations for this Raven game. The 1st was the use of 3 WRs in conjunction with the I-formation. The 3rd receiver, inserted in lieu of the TE, forced Baltimore to pull a man from the interior box and move him out onto that WR, which then gave the Stillers a bit less congestion on running plays. The 2nd was a split-back formation, which was used effectively to provide Stewart some pass protection as well as blocking for designed QB draws. Coming from Gilbride, a man who for over a year-and-a-half has treated any tinkering with the standard, vanilla I-formation with utter disdain, these 2 new formations were as revolutionary as the invention of automobile. However, don't lavish Gaypride with too much praise. The litany of possible candidates for the Gay Play O' the Day is so lengthy, that a new committee may very well have to be formed just to sift thru and select one winner, er loser, for this important weekly tribute. One possibility is the 3d and 5 Whaleshit Counter on the Raven 32 in the 2d quarter, which was swarmed and engulfed for a 2-yard loss, forcing the team to punt rather than try a FG or move the sticks. Then there's the ever-popular shotgun draw to Hunt, with only 56 seconds left in the half and the ball on the Stiller 43, which gained squat and forced the team to waste a timeout. Or how about Gaypride eschewing the success of the 3-WR set, and on 3rd and 1 on the first play of the 4th quarter, he uses a 2-TE set with the I-formation? This allowed Balt. to jam 9 defenders into an area only as wide as a picnic bench, and the penetration forced Bettis wide & ultimately caused an easy stuff well short of the sticks. Finally, there's the dumbassed 3rd & 10 screen pass from the Raven 13, which was easily stopped for 6 yards. Running a screen play within spitting-distance of the goal-line --- which is becoming another Gaypride fetish --- has got to be one of the most asinine, no-brained concepts since the idea of screen doors for submarines. Screen plays work when defenders are run off by receivers running deep routes, but when the ball is so close to the goal line, NOBODY on the defense is run off at all. It was also annoying and disturbing that Gaypride tried as many screens as he did against a quick, speedy, experienced Raven defense that was obviously sitting on the draw and screen, & were never fooled once by ANY of the plethora of screens Gaypride pulled from the grab-bag. The play-action TD pass for the bomb to Ward was an adroit call, but given the overly-aggressive nature of Baltimore to stuff the run, why was it called only once? At a minimum, this kind of play should have been run four times against the Woodpeckers. C+.
Def Coord: Lewis's defense was befuddled and confused early on, giving up 2 long drives that luckily resulted in no points on the board. This tells me the preparation was a bit inadequate. Lewis did make some adjustments and the defense tightened after that. The blitzing, which was sparse in the first half, really increased in the 2nd half, which made Dilfer's life more confused and pressured back in the pocket. I was a bit perturbed on the final Raven drive, in which Dilfer missed a wide-open Ismail on a deep crosser that would have easily gained 35 yards. Chad Scott released Ismail to the middle, and Ismail didn't have a defender within 15 yards. On a last-gasp drive of this nature, Lewis should have simply assigned DeWayne to shadow Ismail, the Stiller killer, anywhere and everywhere, so that no imbecilic "communication mishaps" would haunt the defense. B.
Head Coach: Little Billy will again beam with joy over another fortuitous win. Hell, the game was still in doubt, and Cowhead already had that snide grin beaming from ear to ear. Cowher's troops seemed a bit flat and unprepared early on today, but at least they scratched and clawed their way to victory. It's doubtful that Cowher had anything to do with the implementation of the two new offensive sets, so I can't give him credit for that. (Cripes, he probably was totally unaware that they were going to be used.) B.
Winning five in a row, after the disastrous 0-3 start, puts the Stillers right back into the thick of the playoff chase. This by no means suggests that this team can even secure a playoff berth, but at least they're in the hunt at the halfway point of the season. Significant warts remain, most notably a passing game that produces far too little in this day of the NFL and its do-everything-possible-to-help-the-passing-game rules. In facing the Titans next week, the defense will receive its first test of the year since the last loss to the Titans. That, too, might be diminished, as Eddie George might be hobbled for that game. The Titans will be coming off a short week of preparation due to MNF, so the Stillers have a reasonable opportunity to go to Tennessee and put the wood to the Titans.
The Still Mill